The resilience, leadership and innovation of Asia's top tourism businesses and players were honoured by Travel Weekly Asia during a virtual ceremony last Friday.
A total of 16 awards across three categories were handed out to forward-looking tourism organisations that have "demonstrated adaptability, innovation and resilience in doing business despite the challenging times".
Like many grand plans we all had at the beginning of 2020, we were not able to organise this event in person — but that doesn't mean the well-deserving efforts of the industry should go unnoticed.
"Northstar Travel Group has decided to persevere and power on with the Readers Choice Awards 2020 ceremony virtually. Like many grand plans we all had at the beginning of [this year], we were not able to organise this event in person — but that doesn't mean the well-deserving efforts of the industry should go unnoticed," said Irene Chua, vice president and group publisher, Asia, Northstar Travel Group during her welcome remarks at the virtual event.
"In the face of an unprecedented year, travel businesses need to reinvent themselves more than ever to stay on top of their game. We believe that this year’s winners will continue to inspire their peers, and each of them deserve to be recognised and celebrated."
Voting for the awards took place from May to August. Winners were assessed by industry professionals on their overall excellence, professionalism, industry initiatives, and efforts in their area of expertise in the past year.
Awards an encouragement in uncertain times
Winners of Travel Weekly Asia 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards also find the awards especially meaningful in a year when business has been anything but usual.
Mandarin Oriental, Singapore was recognised as the Best Luxury Hotel - Asia Pacific, with general manager Christian Hassing, expressing how getting "this prestigious award is not only a great honour, it's an endorsement of what we try to do during a very difficult year".
For Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), which won the top honours for Best Asia Destination Marketing award, the award is a much-welcomed recognition of the destination's swift response to the Covid-19 and its efforts to stay connected with the regional travel trade amid an unprecedented crisis.
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, MGTO director, stated, "We will cherish [this award], because throughout the year we have not been doing what we used to do. Most of the time we are managing quarantine hotels; a very new challenge and deep learning curve. Let's celebrate today anyway, let's keep our spirits up and hope to see everyone again."
Staying nimble and agile was a common trait among the award winners. Commenting on Mandarin Orchard Singapore, winner of Best Upscale Hotel - Asia Pacific, Tan Kim Seng, COO at Meritus Hotels & Resorts, said:
"Our hotel remained open from day one, and we've been serving a very difficult client base — from the early days housing workers stuck in Singapore, then people on stay-home notice, and now staycationers and Singaporeans cashing in on their Rediscover vouchers. [So] credit must go to my team because I've had less staff available, working longer and harder hours, of course for much lesser financial returns,"
Eyes on 2021
Clear-eyed optimism is how Marriott International, winner of Best International Hotel Chain, would describe the group's vision entering 2021.
"We've seen upward trends in the APAC market since April with China doing exceptionally well, but there're occasional setbacks," said Bart Buiring, chief sales and marketing officer of Asia Pacific, referring to South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong's new wave of cases.
The travel business outlook for Asia-Pacific remains mixed in 2021, although bright spots are now emerging, according to Choe Peng Sum, CEO of Pan Pacific Hotels Group, winner of Best Regional Hotel Chain.
"We're quite happy with Australia once the domestic doors opened; it's starting to come up quite well. We can't say the same thing [for Asia]. We try to have all these bubbles, but I think the next six months it'll be a lot of domestic within — that keeps us busy trying to make sure we make it worthwhile for our locals to enjoy and rediscover Singapore."
Olivier Berrivin, managing director of international operations for Asia at BWH Hotel Group — winner of Best Midscale Hotel Chain — believes recovery in 2021 will still be sluggish in 1H.
"In terms of business I don't foresee any return to normal until Q3. Thailand is still struggling and no clear indication of when flights will resume. But the most important thing is to restore confidence of our guests," said Berrivin.
Northstar Travel Group's Chua concluded, "Today, we celebrate all of you. Travel is and will remain a resilient industry. Together we look forward to a better tomorrow."
A full list of the award winners follows.